What are my options for hiring an attorney with the firm?
This is the traditional model. Attorneys do the work and you pay for it with an hourly rate. The advantage of this model is that you only pay for the work performed. The disadvantage is that the amount of work needed may vary.
If it takes us a letter and a few phone calls to get your matter resolved, you win under an hourly rate because the work will be minimal, and so will your bill. But it’s equally likely that it will take more work than that to get you to the finish line. We might even have to file a lawsuit. If that’s the case, your bills will be higher, and irregular. One month there may be little work done, so you’ll get a small bill. The next month, however, it may take the work of two attorneys to handle your case. Then the invoice for that month will be large.
We don’t take cases unless, in our estimation, you will get a settlement that will more than compensate you for the fees that you pay us. Indeed, under many employment laws, your employer is required to pay most, if not all, of your expense if you win at trial. (The “fee shifting” in employment and civil rights cases is different from almost all other forms of litigation. Win your contract dispute or divorce, and you still have to pay your own lawyer.)
Still, it does happen that people end up underwater. They spend a lot in attorney fees and lose, or they end up ahead, but not enough to make the whole ordeal worth it. Where that line is – what is valuable to you – varies from person to person. For some, it’s a straight cost-benefit exercise. You spend some to get some. If you spend a lot, and get a little, it’s a loss. For others, intangibles are more important. It’s worth it to see their weasle of a boss be forced to sit and answer questions for hours in a deposition. Just like the commercial:
- $1250 for the court reporter;
- $5200 for the lawyer
- watching your boss at a videotaped deposition get pinned down by his own lies… priceless.
Where you fall in that spectrum is something only you can know. But it is important that you do.
To retain the firm for at an hourly rate, you are required to pay a refundable retainer of $9,850. The firm will put these funds into a trust account, where it will remain yours until work is performed. Attorneys will bill against this at an hourly rate. Mr. Spiggle’s hourly rate is $555. Other attorneys at the firm will charge between $365 and $505. Once the retainer drops below $2,000, you will be required to replenish the retainer until the representation ends. If there is money remaining in the trust account at the end of the representation, the firm will return it to you. You can end the representation at anytime and for any reason. You will be provided monthly invoices detailing work performed and any funds withdrawn.
A flat-fee rate is pretty much what it sounds like – you pay a flat rate for the service, no matter how long or short the representation takes. This allows you to control the risk. It is guaranteed that you will only pay a certain amount for the service, no matter how much work it takes us. Of course, you may end up paying more per hour worked if your case wraps up quickly. But if that happens, it means you got a quick win.
It’s actually not quite so simple (of course not). At least, for once, this complication benefits you! You don’t actually pay one fee. You deposit one fee and the firm withdraws as attorneys complete certain phases. For instance, the firm will withdraw a portion when it completes the demand letter, another if you file with the EEOC, and so on. That way you only pay for a particular phase – or if you resolve your case.
Flat fees vary from case to case. For pre-litigation employment cases, the flat rate for negotiations that don’t involve filing an administrative case (with the EEOC, for instance) the flat rate is $9,850. For cases that involve filing with the EEOC, the flat rate is $15,950.
Education cases and non-employment cases are offered a flat rate on a case-by-case basis.
On occasion, we enter flat fee arrangements for cases that involve filing a lawsuit. The firm also offers these rates on a case-by-case basis.
The contingency fee arrangement is one in which attorneys are paid a percentage of what you recover. Usually it’s 40% of the total recovery, but this can vary.
Employment and civil rights cases offer another possibility – fee shifting contingency. In these cases, the attorneys are paid by the employer at the end of the case. The reason that this exists in employment cases is that sometimes the amount owed to you would not support the filing of a lawsuit.
For instance, if you are a store clerk and have an overtime claim worth $10,000, it doesn’t make sense to file a lawsuit that will cost $40,000, or more. But these can still be important cases. So Congress provided that an employer must pay those costs if it breaks the law and loses in court. Thankfully, the reverse is not true; you will not be required to pay your employer’s attorney fees.
The Spiggle Law Firm contingency fee arrangement allows us to recover the larger of the two amounts – either 40% of the total recover or our attorney fees as paid by the defendant – but not both.
The benefit here is obvious, you only get paid if you recover something. The downside is that you may end up paying more – much more – than you would if paying an hourly or flat rate. Still, some clients prefer it, or that is their only option.
Cases that we take on contingency have the following characteristics:
- Clear liability – for instance, an email or writing demonstrating discrimination, or other liability.
- Jaw-dropping conduct by the employer or school – something well beyond the difficulties, even serious difficulties that people face. For an employment case, this might include significant sexual molestation, or a boss that says, “I generally don’t like pregnant women, so, you’re fired.”
- Clean work history – though not a requirement, most employment clients that we take on contingency have no prior history of problems at work.
- Significant damages – this means that you have lost your job, and you made a significant wage. And/or you suffer significant emotional distress as documented by health-care professional